“Do consumers really want to hear from a [paper towel/breakfast cereal/car] brand on [issue of the day]?” That’s a question I hear a lot when I talk to marketing leaders about responding to current events in real time to connect with consumers.
Of course, the answer to a question like that is no. Consumers don’t want to hear from a paper towel/breakfast cereal/car brand on the issue of the day.
Consumers do, though, want to hear what brands that stand for strength and support, or kindness and inclusion, or love in all its forms have to say about current events and issues relevant to those core principles.
Permission to take stands is about values, not product category
According to Gartner’s recent Polarized World study, 45% of U.S. consumers agree that, “Companies should only support issues or causes that are directly relevant to their business or products/services they sell.” But 62% of U.S. consumers agree that, “Companies should only express support for issues or causes that are consistent with the values of the company.”
Consumers give brands a wide berth as long as brands are commenting on events, topics and issues relevant to their core values.
Without clear brand values, the safe bet is to play it safe
If all your brand stands for is the quality of the product you sell, the safest move in today’s divisive cultural climate may well be to stay in your lane. Keep social posting focused on topics and cultural moments that have a natural connection to your products and services. Sell paper plates and napkins? Happy 4th of July! Hot chocolate brand? Ice skating season awaits.
(But please do have a brand and communications crisis plan in place. You must be ready to respond in a smart way if your brand gets yanked into a major public debate. These days, it doesn’t matter what you sell. It can happen to you. Just ask the folks at TIKI Brand.)
With clear brand values, go ahead and grab the mic
But if you have established a set of core values that your brand “lives” consistently in the world, then you have the opportunity – perhaps even the responsibility – to react in real time with what’s happening in culture and in the lives of consumers. That’s why Brawny can speak to more than paper towels. And Cheerios can speak to more than cereal. And Subaru can speak to more than safe and responsible transportation.
Taking a stand is not without risks. But for brands that get it right, the rewards are real. You’ll forge more powerful bonds with the consumers you already have. And you’ll make a morally and emotionally compelling case for your brand with new consumers.